It was during an English lesson during the late 1970s – English lessons were never about spelling, grammar, creative writing, etymology, poetry or literature, always, always politics – when a short term supply teacher told us of his experiences whilst on holiday behind the iron curtain (dull) and the benefits of his rotary engined car (interesting). A few days later, his words on the USSR began to resonate with me a little more. At the time, I was a Tory because my parents said that Mrs. Thatcher would be a great Prime Minister which was good enough for me but what my teacher had said made me think. He said that just as we are told to fear the Soviets and be prepared for their invasion, so the Soviets are told to think the same of us. I wrestled with this for some time. We were normal, not like the Soviets. We were nice, kind, had pets, liked music and enjoyed a free society. The USSR was not free and as my Mum had said “you don’t see many jumping over the wall to get in do you?” so what did he mean?
I was aware of the cold war and why it was so called. The news was always full of the impending threat from the USSR, the doomsday clock was going back and forth at a dizzying rate and the USSR seemed to be everywhere militarily and a permanent threat. Conversation in lessons usually revolved around how unlikely it would be to survive a nuclear strike and how we would watch our family and loved ones either burn to death or die slowly from radiation poison – this is why I have a particular hatred of left wing indoctrination by teachers and perhaps explains a personal trait or two. Teachers told us of a nuclear strike being possible at any moment – my pre-teen years were pretty fucked up by those bastards and my parents, wondering what was up with me, tried to allay my fears as best they could but to no avail as I was never completely honest about the depth of my fears and anyway, they lived through WW2 and the Cuban missile crisis so what the hell did I have to moan about?
Out with school mates one night, we noticed flashes in the sky some distance away. “That’s Eastward” said one, it made us all go quiet. We thought that this was it, this is the Russians and the teachers were right. We all scarpered home as fast as we could, heads full of the horrors that were about to befall our families and friends. Only in the years since have I realised that it was most likely to be from the train lines and the power pickups from the overhead cables. Sounds silly I know but I can assure you that it wasn’t, talk with friends never really ventured far from our impending vaporisation – we were truly terrified.
Fast forward some more and there was more talk of Soviet expansion. It was getting serious now, Lessons were now not requiring a pen, pencil or pair of compasses, they were just discussions on the merits of CND and why the West should give up its nuclear weapons for the sake of the continued existence of mankind.
After returning home from being out with friends (we were always at each others’ houses and NEVER in the park just messing around… honest), I was just in time to see a specially extended news programme on the Russian invasion of Afghanistan. The newsreader, Peter Woods I think, wasn’t behind a desk but sitting on the front of it – this is now damn serious and something so simple indicated things were different and reflected the immediate danger to me, the youngster. We were told that this was a stop gap, a testing ground prior to full European invasion just as the Nazis had done in the Spanish civil war. This was real and it was coming
I didn’t sleep well that night or for the next week or so. Every noise was a Soviet rocket exploding somewhere or AA fire trying to probe the darkness in search of Russian bombers. Every single aircraft that I heard was an enemy or a plucky British fighter trying to overcome insurmountable odds. This might all sound ridiculous and even typing this, it feels a bit silly but if so, that’s because I cannot describe the febrile atmosphere that I and my friends were immersed in, all based on what those that were in authority had presented us with.
Some time later, I remember going without my lunch and, after saving up, doing the right thing and going to the local sweet shop and buying a copy of Protect and Survive. Just this book could mean the difference between my family living or dying.
It was horrifying reading. What teachers had told us about, warned us about was real and could happen at any minute though I still didn’t understand or believe them when they insisted all this could be stopped if we gave up our nuclear weapons whilst eminently sensible people said the complete opposite.
As I grew older and began to understand a little more of the world, politics and the left wing infestation at my local comprehensive and minus the haze of newly formed hormones running around my system, the cold war appeared to evaporate along with my daily fear of aircraft noises and aversion to loud bangs – I do not exaggerate, they still exist. There were also IRA atrocities. My school had a couple of false bomb threats, school trips were cancelled and to cap it all, one of the McWhirters that used to appear on Roy Castle’s programme had been murdered by the IRA. Everywhere was danger, people dying from an unseen enemy and the threat of nuclear Armageddon at any moment.
As time went by, these thoughts began to dissipate, expunged by new words such as glasnost and perestroika brought in by a man that didn’t look like an enemy and could easily be somebody’s uncle, it seemed as though it would all be OK. Then there was an attempted coup in Russia with a drunken bloke and tanks firing at a presidential building. BANG, I was again filled with the fears from years gone by but this eventually passed and they finally relented to a bearable level.
Coming more up to date now and taking everything I’ve learned in to account: the lying, scheming, duplicitous, two faced, arrogant, dilettante, self serving nature of many of those that insist that they are working on our behalf. Political mismanagement (and I’m being damned kind here) has led to increases in crime, violence, rape, murder, importation of a fifth column we are unable to criticise through threat of imprisonment and where simply saying what you think can be grounds for not only losing your job but your liberty as well. Our elected representatives wanting rape victims to keep quiet for the sake of a failed political and social experiment. We have a Police force whose leadership is too frightened of being labelled racist to actually stop people carrying knives, acid/alkali, guns and machetes but will destroy your life if you say something that could be deemed a bit mean or they decide on balance, needs to be shut down for the benefit of community cohesion.
The problems that have been foisted upon this country are way beyond the scope of being dealt with by the political and intellectual, trough snorting, pygmies that are meant to represent us – the truth is heresy, logic is turned on its head then pulled inside out and feelings, we are told, are the most important thing that we must hold dear. To counter this inability to repair the problems and heaven forfend, admit failure in both decision making and political ideology, distractions are needed. As the problems become increasingly large, so do the distractions. It has been tried before with Iraq, Afghanistan and almost in Libya. Syria went pear shaped and we won’t talk about Egypt so lets recreate the good old days and pick on Russia.
I confess that I still get twitchy when international relations become strained and, although it does seem ridiculous at my age, I have to change my train of thought when these things begin to go awry.
I feel as though I have been taught to dislike and fear Russia from a very early age but now, I’m older and wiser.
I’m having no part of it.
© Rat Catcher 2017
Images courtesy IISD, Sarah Leo, Tao Wu under creative commons license.